This fall marks a year since the formation of Chicago Booth’s Part-Time Allyship committee. We chat with student Edward Acosta and alumna Tina Djenge about the committee’s inception, activities, and goals for the future.
Edward Acosta, Evening MBA student, Professional Development Chair of Booth’s Allyship Committee, Product Manager MBA Intern at Amazon Web Services.
Tina Djenge, Chicago Booth alumna and former professional chair of Graduate Women in Business, Founder of Neural Trend, a data-science company that helps fashion and beauty retailers predict apparel demand so they can promote and source the right merchandise.
Tina, how did the idea of forming an allyship committee come about?
Tina: When I joined Booth I was particularly excited to join Graduate Women in Business (GWB). As I learned more about it, I wondered why we have an organization that is set up to empower women but is not pulling men into the conversation, which is a critical piece of leadership equity. At the time, my male peers were also telling me how they, too, can be a part of the change, but weren’t sure which GWB events they were welcome to or how to really do it effectively.
Even before becoming a co-chair of GWB, I spoke with the existing board about these joint conversations, and so this became my biggest goal during my time on the board. I started exploring the idea of what allyship should look like for us and how we could invite men to take action in overcoming challenges women face at work. My intention was to create a set of actionable toolkits on how to drive change in this journey of gender equity. The conversation would also be structured around empowering women to advocate for themselves, and guiding men to provide help in a way that’s effective and meaningful. Forte Foundation has been tremendously supportive in shaping this committee, allowing us to leverage their MBA allyship best practices toolkit. Another organization in Chicago, called Network of Executive Women (NEW), led by Sarah Alter, has been very valuable as well. During my time at Booth, I also started a data-science company, Neural Trend, and my team and I used the frameworks learned to apply it towards building an equitable culture.
Tell us about the committee’s formation and structure
Tina: In setting up the allyship committee, we wanted to find advocates who have taken action to support their female peers. Women could nominate men or men could self-nominate and explain why they would be a good fit and provide examples of how they exhibited this quality in the past. We had an amazing group of candidates who were very excited about this topic and wanted to take it forward and bring the rest of Chicago Booth on board. Edward was actually a self-nominee and he has been a champion of the committee ever since.
Our committee has three chairs and one or two ambassadors under each chair. Edward is our Professional Development Chair. He pulls industry professionals into the conversation to leverage what they've learned throughout their careers. This allows Booth students to understand that 1) to be a great leader and an executive, you need to be inclusive, and 2) they get to learn insights on how great leaders have done it in the past. Our Community Engagement chair Adam Crumpler, helps pull the Booth community into the conversation, and our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Chair Kevin Hong, ensures we're having inclusive conversations across the board. We also want to recognize Boothie allies Abraham Zelee, Christian Compton, and Sean Baur, who have made significant contributions to the progress we’ve accomplished to date, and the former GWB board - Sindhuja Pamulapati, Christine Koval, Julia Jain and Katie Pincus for supporting on their front.